The Guardian 18 May, 2005

Global briefs

CONGO: Nearly 12,000 former combatants have disarmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the number of former fighters joining disarmament programs has almost doubling in the last few weeks. Among them were some 3600 children. The UN Organisation Mission in the DRC has been able to go into previously inaccessible areas and build roads and distribute medicines to the population, UN spokesman Francois Dureau told journalists at the UNís headquarters in New York. Under the transitional constitution, elections were to have been held next month. But the UNís Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said preparations were delayed pending approval of the new constitution and electoral law.

HAITI: Several thousand supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, the party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, demonstrated in Port-au-Prince on May 4 to demand the release of political prisoners and protest their poor living conditions. Marching from the working-class Bel-Air district, the demonstrators demanded the release of all imprisoned Lavalas leaders and activists, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, reported in serious condition after 17 days on hunger strike. The marchers also called for an end to the US-and French-backed interim government headed by Gerard Latortue, and protested against the murder of five Lavalas activists killed during a peaceful demonstration April 27.

PUERTO RICO: Students at the University of Puerto Ricoís main campus in Rio Piedras have signed an agreement with university administrators, ending a three-week strike over a 33 percent tuition increase. Under the agreement, the tuition hike will be postponed while a committee reviews the universityís finances and seeks another solution to a deficit estimated to be nearly $24 million for the coming fiscal year. The committee will include representatives of the administration, student councils from each of the universityís 11 campuses, the University Committee against the Increase, and the associations of professors and non-teaching employees. If no alternative is found, the increase may still take effect next year. The university serves some 60,000 undergraduates and 7500 graduate students.

CEYLON: Oil workers at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation held a lunch-hour picket on May 4 to protest against the governmentís plans to sell part of the state-run company in order to raise $88 million to restructure the money-losing firm. The Joint Trade Unions Federation demanded the government make a public statement on the issue of privatisation before the end of May. Several unions have warned that the government will collapse if it continues to privatise state institutions and services.

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